Friday, 16 May, 2008

Delhi Youth Summit on Climate

Inviting young people and young professionals

“Come Write the Future”: Delhi Youth Charter on Climate
Delhi Youth Summit on Climate
May 2008

Organizer: Indian Youth Climate Network
Sponsor: Lead India
In partnership with: The YP Foundation, Forda, Teen Murti Bhavan & UNESCO

Date : May 28th and 29th 2008
Time : 9:30 am onwards
Venue : Teen Murti Bhavan (Nehru Memorial Museum & Library)
Age Group : 18 – 30 years

Climate change poses the single largest threat to the future of humanity. Scientific reports are now indicating that to slow down the effects of a run-away climate catastrophe, carbon emissions must not exceed 350ppm. In the wake of this threat, nations around the world are grappling for solutions to establishing pathways to low carbon economies to avoid a wave of mass planetary extinction.

Though we may attempt to fix the problems technologically, it is widely acknowledged that real solutions will only come from changes in lifestyle.

Lifestyles are greatly impacted by none other than the planning of cities—the rise of which gave birth to “civilization.” The unsustainable use of local resources has also in the past lead to the collapse of entire city states. Thus to tackle climate change and the challenges it poses to already struggling developing economies, we must address development issues at the city level.

Many cities around the world are already planning vigorously to reduce emissions and adopt efficient use of energy and resources. In the United States alone, nearly 800 cities have pledged to sign the Kyoto Protocol and ensure that emissions from those cities meet the international targets.

Delhi, the seat of power of the world’s largest democracy makes little mention to climate change in its Master Plan 2021.

With the capital very much under construction in its attempt to become a “world class city,” there is much to be done to incorporate mitigation and adaptation to the changing climate now, while there is still time. Young people must have their voices heard to ensure their policy perspectives are incorporated in the plans of the decision makers of the city. The Delhi Youth Summit on Climate aims to bring together the youth of Delhi, to begin the dialog on Delhi’s fate in the wake of climate change. In addition the summit will hammer out a Delhi Youth Charter on Climate: how Delhi can adapt to and mitigate in response to climate change.

We encourage you to join us and be part of the process!

For further information and participation, click the following link.

Tuesday, 13 May, 2008

Placing Afghanistan

During its long history, Afghanistan has been a land which has seen various invaders and conquerors in the form of the Mughals, British etc while local entities fought amongst themselves to form their own empires. Since the 1970s, Afghanistan has been ravaged by wars and internal conflicts which started in the form of the soviet invasion of 1979 giving rise to various groups which would later compete with one another for power. The Taliban which came to power in 1995 after a series of governments ruled over the nation for half a decade imposing strict Islamic rule on the Afghan people, which acted as a huge hindrance to the economic, political, cultural and social development of the Afghan society. In more recent times, the US led invasion of Afghanistan had a much more disastrous impact on the development of Afghanistan, despite the downfall of the Taliban regime. The presence of the NATO troops in various provinces of Afghanistan has not gone down well with the fundamentalist groups leading to continuous chaos and anarchy in the country, which has been marked by the resurgence of the Taliban. Such unstable elements have prevented Afghanistan from making headway in any direction and the situation seems to be a lost cause.

At least, this is how the media portrays the situation in Afghanistan to be like; the reality is quite different. The roundtable discussion on Searching For Peace in Afghanistan: Collaborative Possibilities for Youth in Peacebuilding organized by WISCOMP on August 27th at the India International Center was an eye opener in this respect helping in highlighting the ground realities in Afghanistan. The roundtable, which brought together young people from both Afghanistan and India, along with organizations and institutions with considerable expertise in issues relating to conflict transformation, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, peace and security and work with young people in both regions, was envisaged as an important first step to explore the possibilities for collaboration of the youth of India and Afghanistan, examine the impact the youth can have on the peace building process in Afghanistan and above all provide the Afghan youth a platform to express their views and concerns that they envision for themselves and their country.

Contrary to the image promoted in the media, the past four years in Afghanistan have been marked by multifaceted changes. The economy has grown by 8.5%, the FDI has increased substantially, foreign investors are seizing the opportunity to rebuild the country and pouring in money, Afghanistan has been accepted as an observer in WTO and as a result of its strong growth in trade it has become a member of many economic groups such as Shangai Group. On the social front, there has been a substantial increase in the number of children going to school; the number of people having finished high school and registering for college has also seen a remarkable increase; under the Afghan National Solidarity programme efforts have been made to overcome the feelings of regionalism and promote a common national consensus, the average per capita income has increased to 350 $ per person resulting in a slight improvement in the standard of living of the people and health services now cover 80% of the population. Democracy has prevailed in Afghanistan, ever since the downfall of the fundamentalist Taliban regime wherein women are once again allowed to participate in the political process of the country.

However, the youngest democracy in the world suffers from a number of prolonged troubles. The most prominent issue continues to be the security threat which seems to overshadow all the progress which has actually taken place in Afghanistan. As a result of the prevailing insecurity, particularly in the rural areas, many parents are discouraged from sending their children to schools. The curriculum in schools is outdated and the bare necessities in the form of chalk, blackboards and well trained teachers are lacking. The UNESCO has declared the Afghan rural area to be the worst for a girl child to be born as they are treated as ‘guests’ and generally subdued. Despite the economic achievements, there are very few employment opportunities in the rural areas, thereby encouraging the flood of people to poppy cultivation; opium trade accounts for nearly 60% of the Afghan economy and Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium producer.

Despite these drawbacks, all the achievements are commendable given the fact that Afghanistan has been ravaged by war and violence for the last three decades. It is only in the last few years that deliberate efforts have been made towards peace building in Afghanistan. What one must understand is that Afghanistan is in a ‘transitionary phase’ where it would not possible for the peace building agents to completely transform Afghanistan overnight. The transition from an unstable underdeveloped state to a stable well-developed state is going to be a long gradual process for which peace and development have to go hand in hand with each other.

Peace in Afghanistan should mean the peaceful development and reconstruction of the country. The Afghan society has been dominated by various ethnic groups, often at war with one another, since time immemorial and it may not be possible to resolve these conflicts completely. As a result, peace in Afghanistan should be aimed at reducing these conflicts and promoting a national consensus, over and above the strong affinities for their respective regions. This accompanied by protection against the insecurity caused by the fundamentalist groups would help in removing the obstacles before development.

Such a large scale process would definitely require the sustained presence of foreign troops. However, given the international pressure on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan it may not be possible for the various countries to maintain their troops in Afghanistan. It is important for the Afghan government to train their indigenous forces so that they can eventually take over the task of rebuilding their own country once the foreign troops are withdrawn. External factors, like regional development and cooperation among the countries of the Indian subcontinent are also important prerequisites for the success of peace building in Afghanistan.

Possibly one of the biggest roles in the process of restructuring Afghanistan can be played by the youth of Afghanistan. 68% of the Afghan population consists of people who are under the age of 25 years. However, the long period of war has deprived many of them of their youth and childhood. Categorized as the ‘lost generation’ of Afghanistan, the socially imposed silence and lack of education has suppressed large sections of the Afghan youth. Moreover, the youth is hardly seen as a direct mechanism for peace building, but only as possible recruits for various terrorist organisations.

The youth has been able to overcome some of these barriers in the recent past to play a more active role. This is evident from the existence of a number of youth organisations spread over the entire country which have undertaken the task of promoting non-formal education, increasing awareness, promoting volunteerism for peace and development of the country and most of them have got integrated in the government or working of other NGOs. Despite their success, the potential of the youth is still not fully tapped. There are numerous ways in which the youth can contribute more fruitfully. The foremost task in front of them is to attempt to bridge the cultural gap among them and build a feeling of trust between themselves so that they can collectively work towards a common cause. The destructive role of the media, in tarnishing the image of Afghanistan as a developing country can be converted to a constructive one. A number of similar conferences as the one organized by WISCOMP will definitely help in portraying the ground realities in Afghanistan, which in turn can instigate the youth of other countries as well including India to take up the Afghan cause; cultural festivals showcasing the Afghan culture through the medium of literate, theatre, poetry etc could be another step in the right direction and most importantly it is when the well-educated Afghan youth, especially the ones living outside the country, stress upon the revival of a ‘lost home’ that the country can hope to develop in the right direction.

- Aryaman Bhatnagar (the author can be reached at

Wednesday, 7 May, 2008

May 7, 2008 by Faith Gonsalves

What am I most afraid of? The fact that sometimes even honesty isn’t enough, that hope is subject to the frailty of our relationships, and that love is separated by distance.

I allow myself to feel pain and love; to cry and scream. But I can’t help but spend nights wondering whether that is nearly enough, mostly because, on most days it isn’t. However, experience has never determined faith, and faith never experience. They are both alone, separate and different. What I feel isn’t always a product of what I know, and of what I have already felt. My capacity to love you isn’t a product of people before you. It doesn’t all boil down to analysis, the ultimate reduction of our feelings and thoughts. They all amalgamate into this vast nothing-ness where everything is consequential or inconsequential, whichever way you choose to look at it.

But, again, what am I most afraid of? Maybe that my honesty isn’t enough, and that the things I hope for will fall apart and that all the love I have will be separated by distance. I don’t’ think that’s true though. I honestly hope that it isn’t. I believe we test our own limits when we allow ourselves to feel, it’s not growth.

When you listen to a song or a piece of music that you really love, it resonates inside of you and the sounds become familiar, the words and notes come naturally, the rhythm suffocates you and drowns you. It contains truth. Someone’s soul resonates in the sounds, it is these sounds that orchestrate a reaction within you that is entirely your own.

Our relationships are alive in everything that we do, our work, our creativity, whether it’s scrambled eggs or cereal for breakfast, whether we go to bed with the TV still on. It’s not reduction. It isn’t quite so simple to delineate the idea in terms of horizontal lines, that run parallel, or that form a grid. This question is the same as whether it remains consequential or inconsequential. We have countless films and TV programmes, books and stories that look at how we are all connected, through chance accidents or fate, how and why we are connected however, is again consequential or inconsequential.

What is it then about fear that drives us to insanity, to terror in the name of defense, violence in the name of protection? Our ‘basic’ underpinnings are said to become active inspite of ‘progress’. It is this that is said to resonate within the sounds that we hear, the sounds that are now so familiar. My fears may not drive me to insanity, to a point where we will not understand each other and my violence may not harm you, or anyone.

These words are a mere microcosm of the sounds, a note within a note, present but dispensable. Though all the notes within notes make up a whole, they are all dispensable.

When I was younger I asked fewer questions. And even that isn’t true, at least then I believed the answers. Today, however, I believe it is important to create a piece of music, or a piece of some kind, something of your own. The songs of other people have long bored into my soul. Sometimes it becomes important to make that stentorian sound, rather than to be engulfed within it.

What is it that I am really afraid of? It is something fairly common. Something most of us believe in.